when I left school I started out my work career as a motorbike mechanic. ( http://www.greyhoundmotors.fsnet.co.uk/index.html ) Thanks to Mr Marley the owner my work life started in bikes. From then I have owned many motor bikes since the age of 16 and some of them included:
My first, an Suzuki AP50. A Yamaha RD 250C (first coffin tank model in metallic blue), YPvs 350, Rd 350, XT500 (still have some bruises on my shins from kick backs, non electric start model), DT175 MX, DT400, XS1100, CG125, Suzuki GT750 kettle, Kawasaki 750 in green, RS100, Moto Morini 350, Ducati 696 Monster, and Suzuki GS1000 to name a few. Through my work career I changed jobs and after a few years from mechanics moved into telecommunications ( http://www.bt.com/index.jsp )
Recently with my family 3 kids and the wife, a mortgage also the pass of time my bikes have shrunk in size. My present bike a CG125 in 2004. It’s a 1983 model so its 6volt electrics and fitted with points. Not the best for reliability. Its ok for now as I use the car and occasionally the bike for the 10 mile journey to work. Then I applied for a new job. I have an interview and start a new job with MLL Telecoms.
I need to buy a bike as my present bike is not up to the 40 mile journey from Croydon to Marlow. I know from experience that Yamahas are reliable. Will eat the miles with no problem. I start to look around. See some ads in motor cycle news (http://www.motorcyclenews.com/ ). 03 fazer with 6k on the clock. I phone and investigate but both are sold. I look at others but I am drawn to yellow or blue in the Fazer. There are none around. I look in the ads for Ducatis (http://www.ducati.com/ ). I have always wanted a Ducati but keep putting it off as to the price, the stories of difficulty to maintain. The reliability, The switchgear.
On reflection. I think my heart is doing the searching. All those good and bad comments discussed re the Duke are now dissapearing. I am looking at information on the net. Using some of the forums
Lots of comments that the Ducatis are reliable. That’s all I need to change my mind.
I have a budget of 3K. I notice for sale a Ducati 916 around 3k. Call the owner and research the bike. He used it for commuting??? I wonder. Could I? I Go to view as its relatively local in Sevenoaks. As soon as I hear the bike start, the termis sing and he offers me to road test the bike I am smitten. I know I want the bike.
I stall the bike 3 times as I get used to the clutch, I make a quick road test move through the gears quickly down small country lanes. The bike handles a dream. Solid as a rock. I could be on train tracks. Ok well a train that can steer. The engine pulls cleanly from low down. A small splutter. I don’t mind he has pre warned me. The V twin engine showing off its low down torque. My only worry is the rabbits running out in front of me…. I return after a brief road test. I don’t want to ride it for a long time otherwise I wont be able to get the price down. My guard is low. I keep smiling under my lid.
When I get back I Negotiate a price and my commuting machine is ready. I wonder if anyone else has bought a Ducati 916 for commuting?
On the way home via brands hatch there are lots of twisting small country roads. As I pull up at the lights. I notice the car drivers looking over. I wonder if its admiring glances. The singing of the termis? Sounds like U2 with a new release. Have to keep blipping the throttle, revving (playing again) make sure I hear all the notes.
The roads are good for visibility. I open up the throttle at every opportunity. I am smiling constantly, the noise, the acceleration and the handling. Why did I think of buying a Fazer. It would never compete on sound or looks.
I am thinking now I need to update my clothing. Next on the list Is to buy a new lid, leathers and it has to be in Ducati style with a Italian flag on it. I place the clothing on hold. I have to think of the essentials. A bike service has to come first.
I plan to service the bike. I find the local Ducati dealers. Pro twins (http://www.protwins.co.uk/index.html ). David Robinson (http://ducatibikes.co.uk/ ). Source new plugs, oil and oil filter, air filter etc. Thanks to Mac motorcycles who have NGK plugs in stock which i bought.
I spend a day in my Dads garage servicing the bike. Drain the oil. Check the tappet clearances. Carry out checks on all service items, I fit a scott oiler, as since I started using one on a Kawasaki 750 previously to commute, my chain adjustment moved from weekly to monthly. I would say best bit of kit to add, unless you can fit a belt drive? (http://www.scottoiler.com/default.asp ). My dad helps me to put the bike back together. I have found the air filters sponge is falling apart. The plugs worn out. May be this is the cause of the low revs misfire. Research on the Internet and it seems to be a fuelling issue. The termis are hard to match to the fuelling. I have to find someone who can tune my bike. I phone Pat Higgs of Vikking motorcycles ( 020 8671 9915 ) no Internet site, He was my supervisor when I was a mechanic. He has continued working with bikes. I know he will be able to sort out or will know someone who can. He mentions he can have a look.
Back to my bike and the days are wizzing past. I am running out of days left off. I have to put off the tuning. The occasional misfire is going to have be rectified later. I need the bike for Monday as its my first day at the new job.
I have a look at google maps (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps ) and the shortest journey from Croydon is 40miles. It takes me into the middle of London through Chelsea. Then onto the M4, off at junction 8/9 then down the A404.
Monday 07:30. Its raining hard. I leave the bike and take the car. I have the choice and turning up at work soaked is not a good idea. I Head out of Croydon. Over the flyover and within ten minutes I am stuck in traffic. I am not going to make my first day start of 10 am. I turn round, back to the house and change.
On to the bike, I am dressed in my biking gear. It needs replacing the wet proofing is nearing its end of life. More research needed on the net to buy some new kit.
First press of the starter button and the Ducati is rumbling. Singing as strong as a tenor. ( the termis echo between the houses). Rain has never put me off before. I have owned bikes since 16 and always used them to get to work or use on the weekends.
I am hoping for the rain to keep off. I keep my route simple. I go against using the route by google map. I tried it once for my interview using the car. It was ok as the kids was off. As it takes me through London it means lots of stop starting. I want some open roads. I choose another route from Croydon via Mitcham then Merton. Onto the A3. M25 (car park). M4.and finally the A404.
Traffic is heavy I have to filter on the outside of traffic virtually the first 20mins until I reach the A3 my first open road. The Ducati cruises. The gearing ideal at 70mph. can hardly hear the engine or exhausts. I join the M25. flashing restrictions. I filter through the traffic. Wanting the roads to be empty. I think to my self. I should have woke up at 5am to take advantage of the exhausts, the handling, the acceleration. Or I could have gone the back roads.
As I join the M4. the speed of the traffic picks up. The lanes are busy. As I reach the a404 I am smiling from ear to ear. The roads are virtually empty. There are a few bends no difficulty for the bike. Its me that is holding back the throttle, the lean angle. I am holding back the singing of those cans. The bike feels so secure. No weaves or wobbles. I think back to my early years and bikes. A Suzuki GT750 kettle. 1974, largest two stroke triple engine. Acceleration for its time was quick. Only trouble was on bends like this road you needed at least two lanes to get round the corner. It was like dancing with a partner who was taking you from one side of the hall to the other.
Back to the ducati 916 biposta. I now could keep on the white lines of the bend. If a coin was placed on the white line. I could tell if it was heads or tails… well I exaggerate a bit.
I remember Pats comments about ridding a race bike. Grip the tank with your knees. Relax the arms. Ease back. Push on opposite sides to drop the bike into the bend.
First corner I Push the steering to the left, it then drops the bike into the corner. The bike keeps going its my bottle that stops me. Before I know it the roundabout approaches. My turning for Bisham village. I turn off. More bends. The roads a bit greasy I slow down. No slips. The bike is rock steady. My memories of my early days on a GS1000. Friendly competition with another is to see who can lean the bike the most. Make the scrape down the 4 into 1 exhaust the longest. I took a turn round a mini round about. Keep dropping I go so low the back tyre lifts off. I have the longest scrape but slide down the road. My pride hurt more than the GS…
I think if I tried it on the Ducati. Would I be able to scrape… too early yet. Maybe if I was young again with friends… maybe not.
As I reach work. I find I am noticing my Bum is getting warm, the exhaust system on the Ducati looks the d*gs B******s, but the routing means that the heat is very close to the seat. Would come in handy on a winters day. I am wondering what its going to be like on a Summers day.
I approach the bridge over the Thames. As I slow down the noise of the termis echoing the cars pull over. I thank with a wave. Accelerate. 2 mini roundabouts. A right another right. I am there. I park my bike. Its been raining hard for the last part of my journey. But I keep looking back at the bike as I go into work. I know its going to take a lot to make me take the car again. The memories of having such a sweet handling bike with the power just can not compare to the car. I take my gloves off and spend a penny. My hands are black from the rain soaking the gloves. The dye poured out on my hands. Another reminder I need to buy some proper wet gear.
The conversation in work quickly turns to bikes. There seems to be many staff there who are into bikes.
Going home time and I think about the bike and its racing position. Its not practical. Its low down. The seat has hardly any padding. Limited steering lock. None of it matters. I am thinking how I can change the way back. There must be more winding roads. I go back the same way though. Don’t want to try any new roads yet.
As I leave the town centre. Onto the roundabout and quickly I Warm up on the turns of the a404. Quickly onto the m4 and traffic is heavy. Have to filter slowly through the traffic. I join the M25. Again its heavy the speed filters are on. I keep the momentum going through the traffic. Before I know it I am passing Chertsey. To me its half way home. I keep checking my riding position. Grip my knees on the tank. Ease back. The A3 is near. As I join the A3 its clear. I quicken the pace and the bike is cruising. A friend recommended a change of sprockets for the gearing. I think its ok. 4 thousand revs and 70 on the clock. I think the bike would be happy to cruise all the way to Italy…. I am thinking of a possible biking holiday. I wonder how much it will cost me to take the bike abroad??
Back to the A3. I near the end. I have been on the bike for at least 40/50 mins. I don’t have any aches my back is fine. I am now thinking of any winding roads I can take on the way back. In the morning I had drove 50 miles. On the way back I choose the road to Banstead even though this will take me further out of my direction home. Through the lanes the roads are clear. The bike does not miss a beat. The bends not enough to test me, only my bottle slowing me down. I approach a sharp bend. The road turns. I drop the bike lower. The angle increasing. My confidence increasing I accelerate. I know why I am going the long way now. Again I take another diversion. Further away from home. I head to Purley. More open roads. I am now thinking I might have to make an excuse for getting home late, or why I ended up with so many miles extra on the way back.
As I take the Bends they are not enough. Each one. Seems to be taken in its stride. I travel down Pampersford road. A few straights but the visibility is not good. Too many spots where a car could pull out. My concentration on the alert. I am yearning for open lanes with no cars in view. I reach the fly over I am nearly home. The roundabout gives me another decent leaning angle to try. I think of possible diesel spills and slow down. I have less than a mile now. The traffic heavy I filter through the last mile slowly. I turn left. I turn right. I am down my road now. I stop and park outside my house. I leave the bike and walk down to open the garage. I know I have taken about one and a half hours to get home. But I cant get over my body. I should be aching. The seat has enough padding to rest a nail, not much else, My back, my arms, my neck? I fell fine with a little stretch. Maybe after a nights sleep I will not want to get on the bike again? Maybe my muscles will tell me the truth and hit me back.
Next morning I get up. I look at the bike while I am having breakfast. I keep looking. I am definitely looking forward to the ride to work. I am admiring the design of the bike. I understand when people say it’s a work of art. To me art that has to be used. Not admired. Although its starting to look dusty. Need to get that wax on to bring the colour out.
I am smiling. I am hearing those termis ringing in the background. Like a Ferrari roaring in to the distance. Its time to be off again. Another day and I am going to be twisting that throttle Make those termis sing loudly.